Using Your Bike to Beat Holiday Stress
By Maria Boustead
Have you ever noticed that for a season of joy, December can be unusually stressful? So while you might feel like you’re too busy or too stressed to ride, WE encourage you to remember bicycling is actually an excellent way to deal with stress. Here’s how to take advantage of this benefit of bicycling this month:
Take a long ride through nature. Participating in a longer ride away from traffic reduces stress two main ways. The first is that the repetitiveness of pedaling over a longer time frame has a calming effect on your brain similar to concentrating on your breathing or a mantra during meditation. The second benefit is that being surrounded by trees and nature is guaranteed to relax you – especially compared to the hustle and bustle of Midtown Manhattan.
You’ll experience these benefits best on routes where you don’t have to start and stop a lot, so take a break from city streets and do some Central Park or Prospect Park laps, or take on some of NYC’s lovely trails, like the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail or the trusty Hudson River Greenway Trail. Worried about the cold? Check our blog for some tips on staying warm while the weather gets cold.
Challenge yourself! Speaking of riding in cold weather, you may just find that accomplishing a personal goal of riding in -X degrees helps lift your mood. That’s because another way that bicycling can help you beat stress is that the more you do it, the more confident you become, and the better you feel. Set a few bicycling goals this month – anything from miles per week, to beating a new low temperature, to doing all your holiday shopping by bike – that will give you a sense of accomplishment. And share your accomplishments in WE Bike NYC Female Bike Forum on Facebook so that we can cheer you on!
(Re)Connect with your cycling community. While all these rides may be good for your psyche, many riders find rides are more enjoyable when done with other people. But let’s be honest: now that we’re moving into winter, planned rides by cycling clubs are less frequent. Don’t despair if you can’t find a ride to join this month: an alternative is to plan a ride yourself and post it in the forum to find some companions.
Beyond the actual cycling part, even getting together with friends who cycle can go a long way to reducing stress this holiday season. It’s no secret that humans are super social animals, and socializing with people whose company you enjoy actually reduces anxiety on a physiological level. Fortunately, social gatherings in December are not in short supply, and the WE Bike NYC White Elephant Gift Swap should definitely be on your calendar this month.
Lastly, volunteering for causes you believe in has a similar calming effect on our minds as socializing, and the benefits can be farther reaching. To stay on the bike theme, NYC has a bunch of bicycle-related non-profit groups that could all use your support, such as Recycle-a-Bicycle, Transportation Alternatives, Bike NYC, and, of course WE Bike NYC. ‘Tis is the season for giving, after all!